27 September 2022
HM The Queen

The wheel of politics has turned again, and I have found myself appointed as a Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.  And at a quite extraordinary time, which -- to me at least -- has brought home some vital truths about this country.

Thousands of pages have rightly been devoted to Her late Majesty the Queen, in life and in death.  Her 70 years of extraordinary service; the whole nation in mourning, the many miles of quiet queuing for her lying in state, her brilliant, poignant funeral, the seamless organisation of it all, the sense of personal loss evidently felt by millions of people across her realm.

This was a global moment, which brought together heads of state and government from around the world.  I had the honour to sign the accession proclamation for King Charles; and to give my personal thanks and that of my constituents to Madame Zelenska, the wife of President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, for that country's brave and brilliant resistance to the Russian invasion.  Two things I will never forget.

But this moment also prompts three wider reflections.

The first is that it again showed our constitution at its finest.  There are some in politics of republican bent who would deride our constitutional monarchy.  But it has huge virtues. 

Its pomp and ceremony and tradition play to the deep need for order, security and continuity in the human soul.  It keeps politics in perspective, and politicians in their box.  It reminds us that a nation is an idea more enduring than a mandate.  And how else could you change a head of state so rapidly and smoothly?

Secondly, it reminds us that we do not see ourselves as others around the world see us.  These great dignitaries came to pay their respects to our late Queen.  But they also made clear that, whatever our internal disagreements, the United Kingdom is still held in very high regard around the world:  for its values, for its language and culture, for its rule of law and much else. 

And finally, it underlines that we remain under a great obligation, to honour that regard. 

We can each do so in our own public service.  But government can also do so in more specific ways.  My new brief includes sanctions, and last Thursday I took a package of legislation through the House of Commons to expand and extend our sanctions against Russia still further.  We have since added again to it, in response to the sham referenda President Putin has called.  Here, as elsewhere, we must seek to lead.